The Bible Revisited: a look at why God sticks with free will
by Jeff Jacobsen
The entire Bible is the story of God's struggle to keep free will going for the human race.
God creates the universe, and decides Earth will be his centerpiece, and humans will be His main point of interest. He puts them in a Garden of Eden, where life is easy and comfortable with few rules. But right out of the gate, humans mess up by partaking of forbidden fruit. And this is the history of the relationship between God and humans ever since. The reason things keep messing up is that humans have free will. God of course could change this at any time, but he doesn't. We have no idea what God is up to in the first place, nor why he is so stuck on us having free will. But here we are.
Using the Bible as evidence for what God is thinking, we can see that He can do whatever He wants. And He gave mankind a choice, to follow God's will or not. I believe the Bible is the story of God's struggle to maintain free will for mankind, even though His experiment (us) keeps messing things up.
Is there free will? Without free will, the whole notion of Christianity is wrong. If our choice is not our own, then all this is just a game God is playing for Himself. God alone would be deciding what happens in all our lives, with no actual input from us regarding our thoughts or wishes. This debate, however - call it determinism, predestination, or whatever - is long and tedious, and I will assume for this article that free will exists. In fact, I believe that free will is the reason God made us.
Right here I want to cover one aspect of the argument against free will, however. This is that God, being omniscient, has fore-knowledge of what any creature He creates will do. God can not only create anything He wants, He can see into the future any event that will happen from that creation. This argument is a logical failure. It is like the question of whether God can make a rock so big He cannot lift it. No such being can exist. God cannot obviously do both. Equally, God cannot both give mankind the choice to accept His salvation, and at the same time already know which way the choice will go. It is an absurd brain game, not a theological argument. Can God kill himself? These types of questions do not lead to theological epiphanies. Rather, they simply show that mankind is incapable of comprehending God.
In the beginning, Adam and Eve broke one of the few rules God gave them. For eating the forbidden fruit, God cursed Adam, Eve, and the serpent. Why would God do this if Adam and Eve had no free will? He gave them rules and let them enjoy the Garden of Eden. What were the rules for in the first place if God knew they would be broken? It was free will. They had a choice and they blew it, so God cursed them.
Cain, the first human child, slew his brother Abel. God found out and told Cain “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” [Genesis 4:7] Again, Cain has choices and God gives him the freedom to make those choices. Let's look into further examples in the Bible where God shows how much He cares to keep free will.
After people began multiplying, “The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.” [Genesis 6:5,6] Humans were not doing well with this free will, and were making the wrong choices. God was upset, but did not take away free will.
After people began building the Tower of Babel, “The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.
Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” [Genesis 11:6,7] Here God seems to have not even known that people would start building a huge tower to reach the skies. Obviously, He didn't say something like “well, they're about to do what I knew they were going to do, so let's go stop it.”
People are still screwing up, so God chooses a particular group of people, the children of Abraham. He designates a land for them and sets up a series of strict rules (unlike in the Garden of Eden). The people balk at entering the Promised Land, so Moses runs them around in the woods for 40 years first.
In the book of Judges, the people go against the rules, and God sends them enemies. They repent and get back in line again.
In Samuel, they decide they need a King instead of God directly running things, and many of them start following false gods. God appoints Saul king, but Saul messes up. “And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.” [1 Samuel 15:35] So He appoints David. The prophets try to keep Israel in line with God's wishes, but it doesn't go well. Jeremiah issues a warning and a promise; you will be cursed if you don't follow God, but if you do you will be in a land of milk and honey (Jeremiah 11). Exercising their free will, all of Israel goes against God's rule, so He sends the Assyrians and Babylonians to take them over.
God decides his heavy-handed approach is not working, so He decides to send his son (not himself) in the most discrete, humble way possible to explain yet another attempt at reset. He selects to come as an illegitimate son of a poor young couple. His son grows up wise but with just a few friends and followers. He shows that he has super-human abilities that give him some credibility, but his message does not seem to be catching on. Perhaps it is just his goal to plant the seed, and hope that mankind takes up this new way. Jesus explains that “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. [Mat. 7:21].” Jesus dies but is resurrected to add to the legitimacy of his message. He then goes back to his Father (God), and it's left to a rag-tag group of his followers to carry on with the Great Reset. Meanwhile, Rome is conquering the known world.
The new message spreads well and maybe things will go ok.
Then, the Dark Ages – Jesus' message is completely twisted so much that we wind up with the Spanish Inquisition. The Great Reset does not appear to be working. Yet, God keeps in place free will.
The Age of Science – Christianity has had its ups and downs, but meanwhile science begins to take hold, providing rational explanations for things previously thought to be caused by the spirit world. Man's inquisitive nature has give him tools to debunk some aspects of religious thought. Man's free will has provided him with much knowledge and perhaps a bit more wisdom (though that's debatable). Belief in and reliance on God diminishes.
It is not known yet how God will react to mankind gradually rejecting His new message.
After Adam and Eve blew it, God set more rules for them. Then when mankind got going and really messed up, He decided to just wipe everybody out and start over. Then when that didn't work, He chose a subset of people to pin His hopes on. That wasn't going well, so He set up a king as a sort of buffer between Himself and His people. That didn't work, so He sent many prophets to warn the people. Finally, He decided on a Great Reset and sent His own son to restart a new way of looking at everything, stressing love rather than law. That has not worked out either. And yet, we still have free will.
So we see that not only is free will obvious, but we see that when mankind exercises that free will and moves away from God, it upsets God's hope that we would just stay with Him and follow some rules. Over and over again, we fail, God adjusts, we fail, etc.
WHY is God sticking with free will? We are His creation, so He can do what He wants. But it seems obvious that He wants us to consciously and voluntarily follow Him. And of course “without free will, no one can truly experience the love of God. Love requires the choice to love, after all.”